Rise up, twitchers! The thinktanks are coming | Stewart Lee

Perhaps the unelected 2022 Conservative government’s most surprising achievement has been to radicalise the the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Flask-swiggers best known for shivering silently in freezing hides, usually they await the seasonal arrival of a particular kind of swan. But Kwasi Kwarteng’s kamikwasi budget has made landscape and wildlife collateral damage for his deregulated New Investment Zones, the Japanese knotweed of ultra-Conservative economic ideology, and the twitchers are twitching with rage.

“We are angry!” squawked the normally placid RSPB, in an urgent communique entitled Stop the Attack on Nature. “The UK government has launched an unprecedented attack on nature. They are threatening to tear up the laws that protect our best wildlife sites, weakening protections for nature in the planning system and may be about to scrap vital proposals that would help farmers help nature. We will not stand by and let this happen.” Take to the streets bird-fans. Riot! And remember, a tube of birdfeeder nuts squeezed into a tied-off sock can make a functional cosh, while a barn-style bird-table roof can be adapted into truncheon-resistant headgear. Twitchers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your choughs.

The RSPB revolution wasn’t on my Liz Truss Disaster Bingo Card. To be fair, neither was the instant collapse of the economy. But the RSPB aren’t the only nature-friendly nerds fearing the Conservatives. Follow my trail of seeds, little birds. On Monday night, a decade late, the cowed BBC’s Radio 4 documentary The Other Black Door belatedly identified how the opaquely funded “thinktanks” in and around Tufton Street have facilitated Britain’s excursion into the foothills of fascism. At last!

But the next morning it was back to business as usual at the Balanced Broadcasting Corporation. Julian Jessop, of the tobacco- and oil-funded Tufton Street charity the Institute of Economic Affairs, was invited on to the rarely adequate Today programme for a typically accommodating chat with Justin Webb, defending the new mini-budget, before being given a slice of cake and a happy ending by the team on the way out. Excuse my French, but plus ça fucking change! In August, Ofcom declared LBC gobshite James O’Brien was justified in describing the IEA as a politically motivated lobbying organisation funded by “dark money”. Its punishment? Licence fee-funded airtime.

Basically, the more bland the name of a “Tufton Street” outfit the more evil it is. Of the following 15 Tufton Street organisations only seven are real: the Taxpayers’ Alliance; the Adam Smith Institute; the Sensible People’s Organisation; Leave Means Leave; the Imperial Legacy Forum; the Global Warming Policy Foundation; Brexit Central; the Plausibility Trust; the Centre for Policy Studies; the Racial Implementation Commission; Ignite!; the Institute for Economic Affairs; the European Strategy Pergola; Operation Mindfuck; and the Fanny Quint Content Discharge. I’m not telling you which are the fakes. You’ll have to use Google, like the BBC should before it books yet another neoliberal mouthpiece for balance, the twats.

The revolting pheasants of the RSPB are now sure to be in Tufton Street’s sights, and the National Trust already is. As explained here before, a shadowy syndicate called Restore Trust intends to de-wokeify the dangerously radical cake-and-countryside organisation by manoeuvring its own indistinct blandidates into power via board elections in this November’s National Trust AGM. Restore Trust backer Neil Record funds the Tufton Street charity Global Warming Policy Foundation. Handing the management of vast tracts of land to Record’s place-people would be like leaving Iain Duncan Smith in a room full of noses and telling him to take his pick.

“But what do we have to fear from the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Stew?” I hear you cry. “It sounds nice!” Well, the Tufton Street charity the Global Warming Policy Foundation has been investigated by the Charity Commission. It promotes climate change denial. In 2021, it launched a non-charitable arm, Net Zero Watch, which called for Cop26 to be cancelled and aims to discredit our commitment to carbon reduction. Local activists such as High Wycombe’s Steve Baker Watch have tried to put pressure on its prominent supporters, such as Wycombe MP Steve Baker, and the mpwatch.org group aims to monitor the activities of parliamentary climate change deniers. But the GWPF has big business board members too, such as Jerome Booth, the chairman of New Sparta films, who financed The Limehouse Golem, The Killing of a Sacred Deer and the poor-quality western Brimstone. What would the stars of New Sparta films, such as Toby Jones, Guy Pearce, Drew Barrymore, Bill Nighy and Nicole Kidman, think of their backer’s commitment to ending all life on Earth as soon as possible? Kidman, surely, would do a mouth sick. Jones would put on a jazz record and cry.

Just as the Bank of England intervened to protect the economy from the Conservatives, so environmental charities, pressure groups and the public have to intervene to save our flora and fauna from certain death at the hands of the current government and their Tufton Street masters. Take to the streets to demonstrate these days and the perfect storm of the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, and the landslip collapse of the justice system, means you could spend 18 months on remand for an offence you are ultimately cleared of, though those currently trapped in this legal limbo will soon be looked upon as heroes. But we can still take up our pens. Join the RSPB and do whatever they say is necessary to save the country from the Truss government. Thwart Restore Trust by joining the National Trust by 28 October, and voting against them in November’s AGM. Help MP Watch hold the Tufton Street climate change deniers to account. They can’t arrest all of us. Or can they?

Stewart Lee’s standup shows Snowflake and Tornado are both currently available on the BBC iPlayer. Basic Lee tour dates are at stewartlee.co.uk/live-dates